Making Prosecco 101: The tank methodFirst things first: A little geographical disclaimer. Like “Champagne”, the term “Prosecco” is legally protected and so for a sparkling wine to be labelled “Prosecco” it must come from the designated regions within Friuli and Veneto that form the Prosecco DOC or Prosecco DOCG production zones. With that out of the way, let’s now look at the tank method itself. Also known as the Charmat method or cuve close method, this is how Prosecco and most of the world’s inexpensive sparkling wines are produced. This is a more cost efficient method that eschews secondary bottle fermentation altogether: The wine is already sparkling by the time it is bottled. The process goes a little something like this:
- Grapes are harvested, pressed and fermented to produce a still, dry base wine.
- This base wine is put into a large, stainless steel tank, along with a mixture of sugar, yeast nutrients and clarifying agent. The tank is sealed and the secondary fermentation takes place under carefully controlled conditions.
- With the secondary fermentation completed, the wine is now sparkling. The dead yeast cells, or lees, are removed through filtration.
- Under a pressurised environment, the sparkling Prosecco is placed into bottles.
Taste test: Traditional method vs. tank methodThe beauty of wine is that most rules and conventional wisdom can be easily tested by simply grabbing a couple of bottles and tasting. Why not grab a bottle of tank method Prosecco and taste it alongside the more complex wines of Cava or Champagne? The tank method does not usually involve the wine having extended contact with the lees. It is the lees that contribute a lot of yeast flavours in Champagne. This can give these traditional method wines interesting flavours of biscuit, brioche and toast that are said to be lacking in Prosecco. Grab an aged Champagne or Cava and compare it alongside an everyday Prosecco, and see of yourself. Try something like Louis Roederer Brut Premier from Champagne or a vintage Cava like Naveran Brut Nature Millésime 2013. Well, what do you think? Can Prosecco stand up to the complexity and depth of a good Cava or Champagne?